PLANS TO build a giant Tesco superstore and retail park along the Seamus Quirke and Rahoon roads has been refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála.
An Bord Pleanála’s decision, which was announced on Tuesday, refused permission for the proposed 8,510sq m retail complex on the grounds its “excessive bulk, scale and mass” would damage trade in the city centre and be visually harmful to local area.
The decision brings to an end a long running controversy over the development which has pitted local residents’ committees against the applicant, T O’Higgins and Company Limited.
The issue resulted in heated exchanges between city councillors at a number of council meetings in 2011, particularly over the requirement to re-zone land to facilitate the possibility of the development. The re-zoning vote had to be taken a second time following a High Court order over the manner in which the original vote was exercised.
City Hall eventually granted planning permission for the controversial development in June 2013, subject to conditions, but this was appealed to ABP by Colm O’Donnellan and Gerry Purcell of O’Donnellan and Joyce Auctioneers and by others.
T O’Higgins Ltd had applied for the demolition of existing commercial/industrial premises along Rahoon Road (where the former Simon Community workshop and store had been located ) and for the construction of a new retail development, widely understood to be mostly occupied by Tesco.
The application sought permission for an elevated retail unit selling food and non-food products; a licensed sales area; an optician and pharmacy; cafés; ancillary offices; staff areas; and car parking. The gross retail floor area of this retail unit was 8,510sq m and the total net retail sales area was 5,442sq m.
Permission was also sought for two-storey retail unit of 352sq m and one two-storey café/restaurant unit of 384sq m in free-stranding buildings to front of main retail unit building, and fronting onto Seamus Quirke Road; surface level parking for 468 cars; cycle parking; and a new public plaza area fronting Seamus Quirke Road for a farmers’ market and public events.
The scale of the development and the increase in traffic it would bring was a major concern to local residents. Residents estimated that Maunsells Road alone carries more than 6,000 cars per day and that that number would double to 12,000 if planning permission was granted.
ABP refused permission on environmental, visual, commercial, and competitive. The Bord said the proposed development “by reason of its nature and excessive scale” would conflict with the zoning objective for the site, to provide retail centres “of a type and of a scale appropriate to the function and character of the area”, and as such it would be “contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
The nature and scale of the development was again a problem for ABP which said the “retail floor space” sought was in a location “remote from the centre of Galway city”, would “detract from the vitality and viability of the city centre” and as such, conflict with the Department of the Environment’s 2012 Retail Planning Guidelines.
ABP also felt the development’s “excessive bulk, scale and mass” would “constitute a visually discordant feature” within the local area and so “seriously injure the visual amenities” of the Rahoon Road, Maunsells Park, and Highfield neighbourhoods.